The Compassionate Face of Religion by taoyni


									USBIG Discussion Paper No. 102, February 2005
    Work in Progress, do not cite or quote without author’s permission

                The Compassionate Face of Religion:
               as Grounding for a Guaranteed Income
  (To be presented at the 2005 USBIG Congress, March 4-6 in New
                             York City)

Buford Farris
Retired Professor of Sociology
163 Pinehill Drive
Bastrop, TX 78602


     If one looks at the present world conflicts, the title of
this paper seems very unrealistic since most of these conflicts
involve religious groups fighting and killing members of rival
religious groups. The present War in Iraq is no exception since
many so called Christian organizations are attempting to define
it as a new crusade against Muslims with the corresponding
response by militant Muslims naming the conflict a holy war
against the infidel. However, I will try to argue that there is
another side or face to universal faiths that believes in
compassion and service to others, particularly those who are
marginalized or at the bottom of the social and economic
structures. I believe that this side or face of many religions
offer a grounding for a guaranteed income and therefore a
resource for those activists who are advocating for such changes.

     This study is a part of an ongoing research that I started
in the 80‟s at the beginning of the present War Against the Poor.
From 1949 to 1969, I worked in three Methodist community centers
in low-income areas in Nashville, Tennessee, Louisville, Kentucky
and San Antonio, Texas before entering academia. At the last
agency--in San Antonio--we developed a gang work project that
soon became a general model for working with any poor
neighborhood. We became involved with the community action of the
War on Poverty and further through Welfare Rights organizing we
became involved with the national advocacy for a guaranteed
income. In fact our agency developed a research project that was
almost funded to test out a guaranteed income in San Antonio,
Texas among Mexican Americans. The model of service in this
project and the social policies implied--including a guaranteed
income--became the basis for my teaching and research in the
various academic roles that I had from 1969 to 2003.

     In the 80‟s, when the War on Poverty was dismantled and the
new policy became the above War Against the Poor, I became
somewhat depressed and began to seek the normative roots for my
life long role as a Poverty Warrior. This led me back to some of

my own theological roots--Nels Ferre, Paul Tillich and Richard
Niebuhr--but also to place these thoughts in a long and cross
cultural study of similar views of compassionate service and
state policies. Some of this research is reflected in this paper.
     My over all purpose in this paper here is to recover
religious discourse for progressive causes, such as a guaranteed
income, from the Christian Right that is prominent in today's
politics. Fred Block has very ably caught my intentions:

     For the last quarter-century, the right has relied on a
     simple narrative that was made famous by Ronald Reagan and
     has been repeated ever since. It is the claim that the
     United States was once a great nation with people who lived
     by a moral creed that emphasized piety, hard work, thrift,
     sexual restraint and self-reliance, but there came a time in
     the 1960s where we abandoned those values. We came instead
     to rely on big government to solve our problems, to imagine
     that abortion, homosexuality and the pursuit of sexual
     pleasure were OK, and to believe that God had died and that
     religion should play no role in our public life. According
     to this narrative, only a systematic effort to restore the
     old values--to reduce the role of government, lower taxes,
     restore the central role of religion and piety in public
     life, and renew our commitment to sexual restraint and
     traditional morality--would make it possible for us to
     recapture our greatness as a people. This narrative
     seamlessly welds together the moral concerns of the
     Christian Right and the free-market concerns of economic

     I will argue that the religious discourse that supports this
narrative is based on a punitive face of religion, which uses the
metaphor, according to George Lakoff,ii of a strict father
morality. I will further argue that there is also compassionate
face to most world religions that has a nurturant parent image
that will support the type of moral discourse that Fred Block

     We must reject these false prophecies and recognize that our
     economy can only work if it is based on moral foundations.
     We must recognize that the pursuit of self-interest, whether
     to achieve fortune, fame, status or power, must always be
     constrained by respect for the needs of others. Once we do
     this, we can begin to change those public policies that were
     distorted by the decades of false prophesy. We can rewrite
     the tax codes to make sure that once more both corporations
     and wealthy individuals pay their fair share. We can expand
     the resources that we provide to regulatory agencies so that
     we get full and honest financial disclosure from
     corporations, a reversal of environmental degradations and

     other vital public goods. We can revisit “welfare reform” to
     make sure that the promise that we “leave no child behind”
     isn‟t just an empty campaign slogan.iii

Max Weber on the Dual Face of Religion:

     In his studies of World Religions Max Weber provides
understanding of how this dual faces of religion arise and
therefore provide for both support and critique of societies
economic and political inequalities. He argues that in the large
imperial civilizations the suffering caused by the extreme
economic and political inequalities produced in reflective
individuals and groups forms of prophetic and redemptory
religions based on universal brotherhood. Among such groups there
emerged an ethic that reflects a sense of humanity experiencing
common sufferings from such economic and political inequalities
in society.

     The more imperatives that issued from the ethic of
     reciprocity among neighbors were raised, the more rational
     the conception of salvation became and the more it was
     sublimated into and ethic of absolute demands. Externally,
     such commands rose to a communism of loving brethren;
     internally they rose to the attitude of caritas, love for
     the sufferer per se, for one‟s neighbor, for man, and
     finally for the enemy.iv

     Further he argues that:

     The religion of brotherliness has always clashed with the
     orders and values of this world, and the more consistently
     its demands have been carried through, the sharper the clash
     has been. The split has become wider the more that values of
     the world have been rationalized and sublimated in terms of
     their own laws.v

     For those groups or individuals who do not want to give up
their power, Weber argues that there are two consistent “avenues
of escape” from the demands of this “universal ethics of
brotherliness” or caritas. One is the avenue of mysticism that
moves the ethics demand to a different level of reality than the
real world. The ethic of caritas then only applies to the
spiritual world and to only certain groups such as monks or
saints. The other consistent response for Weber is the Puritan

     As a religion of virtuosos, Puritanism renounced the
     universalism of love, and rationally routinized all work in
     this world into serving God‟s will and testing one‟s state

     of grace. God‟s will in its ultimate meaning was quite
     incomprehensible, yet it was the only positive will that
     could be known. In this respect, Puritanism accepted the
     rountinization of the economic cosmos, which, with the whole
     world, it devalued as creatural and depraved. This state of
     affairs appeared as God-willed, and as material and given
     for fulfilling one‟s duty. In the last resort, this meant in
     principle to renounce salvation as a goal attainable by man,
     that is, by everybody. It meant to renounce salvation in
     favor of the groundless and always only particularized
     grace. In truth, this standpoint of unbrotherliness was no
     longer a genuine „religion of salvation.‟vi

`    Thus “God‟s Will” is not to help the poor because their
failure in terms of material success means the God has not
elected them for salvation. Poverty becomes a moral issue and one
can make a classification of “deserving poor” from “undeserving
poor.” It should be noted that Weber wrote his famous study, The
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, after a visit to
America and he was struck by the way Protestant groups functioned
in this country. In an article that is usually now published with
The Protestant Ethic called “The Protestant Sects and the Spirit
of Capitalism,”vii Weber points to the validating role that the
local congregation has in establishing the “moral worthingness”
of the member. Business or Professional success was often
dependant upon whether some denominational group judged that one
was fit to take communion or participate in congregational life.
Thus grace was not universally available to all but was
particularized according to the standards of that denomination
and particular congregation. In many ways this creates a very
lively civil society but also one that is extremely exclusionary
based upon rigid positions of morality. Thus Weber understood the
economic value of social capital, but he also presents it as
being very particularized in its effects. Weber also showed that
the Puritan Ethic could also have political forms.

     When salvation aristocracies are charged by the command of
     their God to tame the world of sin, for His glory, they give
     birth to the “crusader.” Such was the case in Calvinism and,
     in a different form, Islam. At the same time, however,
     salvation aristocracies separate “holy” wars or “just” wars
     from other, purely secular, and therefore profoundly
     devalued, wars. The just war is engaged in for the sake of
     executing God‟s commandment, or for the sake of faith, which
     in some sense always means a war of religion.viii

     Thus, political action is justified to compel non-believers
to go by the particular versions of morality that the faith

     Weber does a good job in explaining the punitive face of
universalistic religions, but is not as good on data for the
compassionate face. Using Weber it is understandable that some of
the major social thinkers that helped form and perpetuate social
darwinism and its negative attitude about the poor were clerics
such as Joseph Townsend, Thomas Malthus and William Graham
Summer.   However, he leaves out the data that the original ethic
of brotherliness remained in force for many of the Protestant
groups that he studied. Some members and groups--particularly
among Quakers, Methodists and some Anabaptists “wanted to
institutionalize the ethic of brotherliness with fewer
reservations--that is, also in a new forms of social community
and political will-formation.”ix “These social movements, which
did not want to divert the potential of ethically rationalized
world views onto the tracks of disciplined labor by privatized
individuals, but wanted rather to convert it into social-
revolutionary forms of life.” In one sense the partial and
limited institutionalized forms that Weber gives leaves a large
degree of surplus morality that often was a part of the formation
of foreign bodies within the various capitalistic societies.
Social historians such as Eric Hosbawm and E. P. Thompson show
the influence of Quakers and Methodist on the Labor Movement.

     A religious tradition---may be very radical. It is true that
     certain forms of religion serve to drug the pain of
     intolerable social strains, and provide an alternative to
     revolt. ----However, insofar as religion is the language and
     framework of all general action in undeveloped societies--
     and also, to a great extent, among the common people of
     preindustrial Britain--ideologies of revolt will also be

     American social theorists such as Thorstein Veblen show
similar influences in American thought. Veblen saw a
contradiction of compassion and pecuniary values in American
life. In both an independent essay entitled “Christian Morals and
the Competitive System” and partially in Chapter XIII of his
Theory of the Leisure Class,xi Veblen argues that the Christian
principle of non-resistance, brotherly love, and mutual support
has provided Western Civilization a leavening set of norms to
control the individualistic pecuniary values emphasized by
business and profit-making. He argued that the Christian values
were a cultural reversion to the “animus of the lower (peaceable)
savage culture.”xii Optimistically, Veblen felt that in his day
the integration of compassion and pecuniary values was falling
apart and therefore he said, “except for a possible reversion to
a cultural situation strongly characterized by ideas of emulation
and status, the ancient social bias embodied in the Christian

principle of brotherhood should logically continue to gain ground
at the expense of the pecuniary moral of competitive

     In his own life Weber, knew the influence of these more
radical religious traditions. Both his mother and his wife were
members of a Feminist and Social Democratic religious group and
Weber was constantly exposed to their ideas and somewhat
politically influenced by them. His general skeptical and
realistic perspective kept him from giving full support. However,
he was fascinated by Tolstoy and Russian Anarchists and his wife
Marianne showed Weber's support of a more leftist attitude:

     His wife has stated that his sympathy with the struggle of
     the proletariat for a human and dignified existence had for
     decades been so great that he often pondered whether or not
     he should join their ranks as a party member--but always
     with negative conclusions. His reasoning, according to his
     wife, “was that one could only be an honest socialist, just
     like a Christian, only if one was ready to share the way of
     life of the unpropertied, and in any case, only if one was
     ready to forego a cultured existence, based upon their work.
     Since his disease, this was impossible for Weber. His
     scholarship simply depended upon capital rent. Furthermore,
     he remained personally an „individualist.‟”xiv

The Right to Subsistence and the Compassionate Face:

     The discussions of the duality of religion, in the last
section, dwelt primarily on a relatively late period of world
history. The concerns of the different groups of Protestants
through either an unbrotherly ethic or by maintaining the sense
of caritas or agape (using the Greek term for unconditional
love)--were based on their varying interpretations of sacred
texts--in this case the Old and New Testaments of the Christian
Bible. Conservatives like Martin Olasky, who coined the term
compassionate conservatism, will use the same texts as
progressive Christians but will suddenly throw in a text that
nullifies the compassionate face:

     Throughout the Bible and in Proverbs specifically, character
     and economic success go together: “Lazy hands make a man
     poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.... He who works his
     land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies
     lacks judgment...Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends
     in slave labor...Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
     stay awake and you will have food to spare” (Prov. 10:4,
     12:11, 12:24, 20:13)xv

     The same bible allows both sets of interpretations. The
theologies of the compassionate face pick up on those texts that
express through full ethical implications of the ethic of
brotherly love. James Scott, a student of peasant social
movements particularly in Southeast Asia, argues that through out
the world the peasant moral economy of the right to subsistence
is picked up by universal religious ideologies in their view of a
better world. If one feels oppressed then one attempts to imagine
some future existence where justice and compassion rule:

     It nearly always implies a society of brotherhood in which
     there will be no rich and poor, in which no distinctions of
     rank and status will exist...Property is typically, though
     not always, to be held in common and shared.... The
     envisioned utopia may also include a self-yielding and
     abundant nature as well as radically transformed human
     nature in which greed, envy, and hatred will disappear.
     While the earthly utopia is thus anticipation of the future,
     it often harks back to a mythic Eden from which mankind has
     fallen away.xvi

     Students of the Ancient Near Eastern Wisdom literature have
found the same general concern for the social and economic rights
for widows, orphans and the poor expressed as an ideal in the
various religious texts. As F. Charles Fenshaw summarizes:

     It is...surprising at what early stage in the history of the
     ancient Near East the compulsion was felt to protect these
     people. (Widows, orphans and the poor in general)...It was a
     common policy, and the Israelites in later history inherited
     the concept from their forebears, some of whom had come from
     Mesopotamia, some had been captive in Egypt, and others had
     grown up in the Canaanite world. In the Israelite community
     this policy was extended through the high ethical religion
     of Yahweh to become a definite part of their, later to be
     inherited by Christian and Muslims such as the Koran
     obligations of Zakat or alms giving and Ihsan or sympathy
     for the downtrodden and oppressed. xvii

     In many of the Near Eastern religions, this compassionate
face was expressed through the image of a god or goddess who was
pictured as a model of unconditional love--i.e. Asclepias, the
Greek god of healing, and Isis, the Egyptian goddess. During the
Hellenistic period these two divinities competed for the
loyalties of believers with the images of Jesus and probably was
blended in to Christianity as it became dominant.

     A similar compassionate image is in the Buddhist tradition
of the legendary Edicts of Asoka. These were the rocked carved

record of the supposed practical measures of Asoka the third
Mauryan Emperor (273 BC-232 BC).xviii Their actual historical base
remains in question, but they do provide a normative ideal for
many Buddhist activists. He was the first Buddhist Emperor of
India and was initially an adherent of the orthodox Hindu faith.
It is said that before his conversion to Buddhism, he was typical
of Indian monarchs at the time. In his conversion, he was
supposed to be influenced by his mother‟s faith. After a
particular war--the Kalinga war--the legend is that he reacted to
what he felt was the unnecessary taking of human life and moved
to institutionalize a different social and political order. He is
pictured by some as attempting to experiment with the teachings
of Buddha as a guide to social policy. A constant refrain in his
edicts is:

     All men are my children. Just as, in regard to my own
     children, I desire that they may be provided with all kinds
     of welfare and happiness in this world and in the next, the
     same I desire in regard to all men.xix

     Asoka was supposed to be inspired by the story of Buddha,
when he was sick with dysentery and addressed the monks,
“Brethren, he who would care for me, let him care for the sick.”
The accounts say that he provided for medical care at no expense
for both humans and animals, not only in his kingdom, but also in
at least ten kingdoms with which he had friendly relations. He
also is pictured as practicing a more restorative criminal
justice system. One writer says:

     Here I need not read the edicts, but merely list his
     activities of traveling around giving gifts extensively,
     commissioning his queens and ministers to do likewise,
     building rest-houses and hospices for the poor and sick,
     patronizing medicine, importing doctors from as far away as
     Greece, providing for convicts and their families, sending
     out special ministers to investigate cases of judicial
     harshness or corruption, freeing prisoners on holidays, and
     so on, generally acting as a father to his children toward
     all people.

     (In his edicts) Asoka. is saying all men of all classes can
     be as gods by virtue of their embodiment of Dharma in
     kindness, truthfulness, and so forth. It is a demand to live
     up to transcendent values and not pretend they are possible
     only in a separate realm of the gods.xx

     He was also pictured as tolerant toward all religious
groups. Even if the historical accuracy of Asoka‟s reign is in
question, this image of compassion provides a strong normative
compassionate face among socially active Buddhist.

     The Jewish scriptures, preserved partially in the biblical
Old Testament, build on the concern for the poor that was a part
of Near Eastern societies and added innovations which were built
in to the Deuteronmic Code:

     At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release.
     And this is the manner of the release; every creditor shall
     release what he has lent to his neighbor; he shall not exact
     it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord‟s release
     has been proclaimed.... But there will be no poor among you
     (for the Lord will bless you in the land which the Lord your
     God gives you for an inheritance to possess), if only you
     will obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to
     do all this commandment which I command you this day.xxi

     Observing the Sabbath became more than just resting on the
seventh day, it became an issue of social justice. In other parts
of the scripture this was extended to the concept of the Jubilee
Year. Here there is ordained “a sabbath of sabbath years, a
super-sabbath” in which land is restored to the original owners.
“In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to
your property..the land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the
land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.”xxii The
purpose was to prevent the transformation of multiple peasant
smallholders into large land ownerships the way modern
agribusiness has done. The Jewish prophets maintained this
commitment calling the Israelites back to a concept of social

     Recent scholarship on Jesus and his teachings see him as
basically within this prophetic tradition and his real message is
one of Concrete Love--Agape or Caritas or Compassion--implying
very specific actions of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked,
giving drink to the thirsty, visiting those in prison,
ministering to sick and welcoming the homeless. Jesus is pictured
as being concerned about renewing the social justice concerns of
the Old Testament and consistently pushes a subversive agenda in
his parables and actions of putting the marginalized and poor
first in the Kingdom of God. As Marcus J. Borg points out:

     Jesus often used the language of paradox and reversal to
     shatter the conventional wisdom of his time. Impossible
     combinations abound in his teaching. What kind of world is
     it in which a Pharisee--typically viewed as righteous and
     pure--can be pronounced unrighteous and an outcast be
     accepted? What kind of world is it in which riding a donkey
     can be a symbol of kingship, in which the poor are blessed,
     the first are last and the last first, the humble exalted
     and the exalted humbled?

     The Kingdom is compared to something impure: it is like a
     women (associated with impurity) putting leaven (which is
     impure) into flour. The Kingdom is for children, who in that
     world were nobodies: thus, the Kingdom is for nobodies. The
     same point is made by Jesus‟ meals with outcasts: the
     Kingdom is a banquet of outcasts, of nobodies.xxiii

     One of the parables, Workers in the Vineyard, is interpreted
by many scholars as implying some form of guaranteed income or at
least a definite right to subsistence for all workers. It was
directed at the plight of the urban unemployed:

     A landowner went out early in the morning to hire laborers
     for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the
     day‟s wage (denarius--the amount needed for a day‟s
     subsistence), he sent them into his vineyard. When he went
     out three hours later he saw other people standing idle in
     the marketplace, and said to them, “You also go into the
     vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they
     went. When he went out three hours later, and three hours
     after that, he did the same. Also about the eleventh hour
     [of a twelve hour day] he went out and found others standing
     around, and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle
     all day?” They said, “Because no one hired us.” He said to
     them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came,
     the owner of the vineyard said to his manger, “Call the
     laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last
     and then going to the first. When those hired at the
     eleventh hour came, each of them received a day‟ wage
     (denarius). Now when the first came, they thought they would
     receive more; but each of them received the denarius. And
     when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,
     saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made
     them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and
     the scorched heat.” But he replied to one of them, “My dear
     man, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for
     a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to
     give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not
     allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or is
     your eye evil (poneros) because I am good (agathos)?xxiv

     As indicated earlier, these representations of a
compassionate face were presented in the same bible with
representations of a more punitive face. Deuteronomy also has
chapters and laws that advocate killing all the citizens,
including women and children, of captured cities. Also, the
quotes earlier from Proverbs show the early roots of the
distinction of deserving poor from undeserving poor that have
persisted throughout western history and the attempts to develop

institutions that help the poor. Charitable activities in the
Christian West took many forms.xxv Pope Gregory, in 590, used the
concept of diaconiae or local welfare centers to provide the
needs of the urban population of Rome. These diaconiae
distributed food, provided facilities for bathing, gave shelter
to the homeless and had services for the sick. By the tenth
century there were twenty-four such centers through out Rome. The
diaconiae were based on ideals that were as old as the earliest
Christian communities and were based on the parable of the Last
Judgment were feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty,
clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, welcoming the
stranger and caring for the sick was commanded as the norm for
human behavior.

     In Rome, most of the diaconiae were built on sites used by
the older Roman republic in its public distribution of grain and
provision of grain and provision of various forms of social
welfare. Often these pagan locations were also sacred spots that
emphasized the worship of compassionate gods or goddesses such as
the Greek god of healing, Aesculapius, or the goddess, Ceres. The
worship of Ceres or the Greek Demeter had been related to grain
distribution in Rome since the fifth century BC. This temple was
founded by the plebeian political party and represented their
attempt to establish institutions that they controlled.

      During the Middle Ages, many monastic orders used the same
model of the diaconiae in establishing hospitals, hostels and
sites to feed the poor in various parts of the Christian world.
Often the wealthy and powerful resisted these claims of universal
charity and attempted to make universal love only a spiritual
matter. At times the clergy argued that its ownership of land and
wealth was on behalf of the poor and at the same time they
enjoyed the use of wealth for itself. There did emerge periodic
reform groups, such as the Franciscans, to restore the original
purpose and priority of serving the poor. Increasingly these
institutions came under lay control and early humanist such as
Erasmus and Vives proposed rationalizing these in to government
responsibility. In the preface to her translation of Juan Luis
Vives proposal for charity reform to the town council of Bruges,
Belgian in 1526, Sister Alice Tobrinerxxvi points out that he was
influenced by the organization of charity and hospitals in
Valencia, Spain under the rule of the Moors. There was special
protection of orphans and other poor and the hospitals used the
best of Jewish and Moorish medicine. Vives was educated in
synagogue schools since he had a Jewish background even though he
was baptized in infancy as a Christian. In his proposal, Vives

     The Romans of ancient times provided in such manner for
     their citizens that no one neede to beg; hence begging was

     forbidden by the Twelve Tables. The Athenians took the same
     preventative measures for their populace. Again, the Lord
     gave the Jewish people a peculiar law, hard and intractable,
     such as became a people of similar temperament: yet in
     Deuteronomy He commands them to such precautions that, so
     far as it is was within their power, there was to be no
     indigent beggars among them, especially in that year of rest
     so acceptable to the Lord. In such manner are all people to
     live; for the Lord Jesus was buried--with the Old Law and
     the ceremonials and the “old man”--and rose again in
     regeneration of life and spirit. Unquestionably, it is a
     scandal and disgrace that we Christians confront everywhere
     in our cities so many poor and indigent, we to whom no
     injunction has been more explicitly commanded than charity
     (I might say, the only one).xxvii

     In England the confiscation of church property under Henry
VIII created the necessity for the Poor Laws. Such government
programs started a series of cycles of moving between the
progressive concept of outdoor relief and the regressive concept
of indoor relief. Outdoor relief was the process where the poor
person or family lived in their own home while being helped by
administrators who knew them as neighbors. Indoor relief was when
the poor were forced into poor houses or paupers’ homes where
they lived as inmates and often forced to work for private
factory owners. Obviously, this debate continues to the present
day even in USBIG discussions around how unconditional the basic
income or guaranteed income should be. The term reciprocity has
become the code word for merited or unmerited income. The
compassionate face would say that our own success is a gift—by
grace--and therefore always not based on merit. Therefore we are
obligated to give to others graciously without concern for the
merits of the recipient.

Paine’s and George’s Debt to the Compassionate Face:

     Thomas A. Horne in his book, Property Rights and Poverty:
Political Argument in Britain, 1605-1834,xxviii suggest another
route that the Deuteronomic Code and other Old Testament concepts
influenced later concepts of social justice. He argues that there
was a tradition in which government grounded aid to the poor was
justified by neither charity nor utilitarian calculation nor
political compromise but was seen as a welfare right based on
concepts of property. In 1625, Grotius described the origins of
property rights with God granting the earth to all people for
their sustenance. According to Grotius, individuals who find
themselves without property and unable to survive and thus starve
may legitimately take from others. This right to take from those
who own more than they need for survival is known as the right of

necessity. Grotius wrote, “the primitive right of the user
revives, as if community of ownership remained, since in respect
to all human laws--the law of ownership included--supreme
necessity seems to have been expected.” One of the legacies of
Grotius, according to Horne, was a property theory that contained
the idea of earth and its produce must be used to maintain
everyone‟s life, and that the right that individuals have to the
earth as a common can never be relinquished. Horne traces these
concepts through a wide range of thinkers including Hobbes and
Locke though they tended to mute its more progressive
implications. Such founders of Liberal thought might be seen as a
variation of Weber‟s insight about the Protestant Ethic. The
“right of necessity” was too great a threat to economic and
political power to allow the full thrust of this norm to be
accepted as a part of government policy. So intellectual routes
around its implications were developed to protect the status quo.
Horne points to a long line of thinkers who did recognize the
progressive implications:

     --the agrarianism of William Oglive, Thomas Spence, and
     Thomas Skidmore; to the defense of the Old Poor Laws in the
     early 1830 by William Cobbet; and ultimately to the working
     class political economy of the Ricardian Socialists.xxix

     Here, I would like to show the influence of this progressive
tradition on Thomas Paine and Henry George since they are
considered by many to be like patron saints for the movement to
establish a guaranteed income or a basic income. Both were
influenced by this Biblical Tradition above--that land ultimately
belongs to God and all people ought to benefit from this

      In growing up Paine was exposed to both Quakerism and the
Anglican Church. His father was a Quaker, while his mother was
Anglican, and their marriage put the family at odds with both
groups. Later as an adult, Paine was a lay preacher for the
Methodist movement in England. Paine biographer, John Keane,

     Paine was also touched by the Methodists‟ doctrine of
     reassurance, whose egalitarianism amplified the Quaker theme
     that each individual was equipped with an inner light and
     therefore equal before God. Methodism put forward the
     exhilarating view, traceable to the early seventeenth-
     century Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius, that Christ‟s
     sacrifice and atonement meant that all men and women might
     be saved, not just the preordained elect, as John Calvin and
     his followers had

     Later in his life, Paine wrote his The Age of Reason that
was a critique of organized religion of his time where he tries
to present evidence for belief in a benevolent form of God and at
the same time critique many practices religious groups. He argues
for a deist or Unitarian belief in God, thus leaving out belief
in the divinity of Christ and the literal interpretation of the
Bible. The Age of Reason became his most controversial book to
both the leaders of the French Revolution and at the same time
church leaders. When he came back to America later the
controversy was still raging. He was also attempting to develop a
universal religion.

     It is certain that, in one point, all the nations of the
     earth and all religions agree--all believe in a God; the
     thins they disagree are the redundancies annexed to they
     belief....If ever a universal religion should prevail, it
     will not be by believing anything new, but in getting rid of
     redundancies and believing as man at first believed at
     first. Adam, if ever there was such a man, was created a
     Deist; but in the meantime, let every man follow, as he has
     a right to do, the religion and worship he prefers.xxxi

     He did form a new religious society called
Theophilanthropists which had four festivals; one in honor of
George Washington, another Saint Vincent de Paul, another
Socrates and the last Rousseau. Some consider the pamphlet,
“Agrarian Justice‟ as a part of this theophilanthropic movement.
It was written as a proposal to the French government and in
reaction to a sermon by the Bishop of Llandaff on ”The Wisdom and
Goodness of God, in having made both Rich and Poor.” Paine says
in his preface:

     The error contained in this sermon determined me to publish
     my “Agrarian Justice.” It is wrong to say God made rich and
     poor; He made only male and female; and he gave them the
     earth for their inheritance...Instead of preaching to
     encourage one part of mankind in would be
     better that priests employed their time to render the
     general condition of man less miserable than it is.
     Practical religion consists in doing good; and the only way
     of serving God is that of endeavoring to make his creation
     happy. All preaching that has not for its object is nonsense
     and hypocrisy.xxxii

     His thesis in “Agrarian Justice” owes much   to the biblical
heritage that God owns the earth and therefore,   loans it to
humans for their use. The human owner only owns   the improvements
made by his own labor, while the land itself is   “the common
property of the human race.” Paine probably had   these ideas when

he made his first proposals for a welfare state in, The Rights of
Man, Part Second, but the rationale was not fully developed in
that material. He proposes that from a ground-rent which the
proprietor owes for the land he holds:

     To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid
     to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one
     years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation
     in part, for the loss of his or her inheritance, by the
     introduction of the system of landed property: And also, the
     sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person
     now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as
     they shall arrive at that age.xxxiii

     Paine argues that this ground-rent should be collected at
the time when the property is passed to descendants through
inheritance. I will not go in to the details of his proposals
since they are well known to this audience.

     Henry George was probably involved in traditional religion
more than Paine. He makes a more explicit use of the Deuteronomic
Code in his lecture on Moses in 1878 given to the Young Man‟s
Hebrew Association in San Francisco. The roots of his belief
about land published the next year as Progress and Poverty are
expressed in this lecture:

     Everywhere in the Mosaic institutions is the land treated as
     a gift of the Creator to His common creatures, which no one
     had a right to monopolize. Everywhere it is, not your
     estate, or your property, not the land which you bought, or
     the land which you conquered, but „the land which thy Lord
     thy God given thee‟--‟the land which the Lord lendeth thee.‟

     Moses saw that the real cause of the enslavement of the
     masses of Egypt was, what has everywhere produced
     enslavement, the possession by a class of the land upon
     which and from which the whole people must live. He saw that
     to permit in land the same unqualified private ownership
     that by natural right attaches to the things produced by
     labour, would be inevitably to separate the people into the
     very rich and the very poor, inevitably yo enslave labour--
     to make the masters of the many, no matter what the
     political forms; to bring vice and degradation, no matter
     what the religion.xxxiv

     George saw the Sabbath observance as a sign that none are
“condemned to ceaseless toil.” He critique of the religious
leadership of his times has implications for a critique of the
Christian Right.

     There are many who believe that the Mosaic institutions were
     literally dictated by the Almighty, yet who would denounce
     as irreligious and “communistic” any application of their
     spirit to the present day. And yet to-day how much we owe
     these institutions! This very day the only thing that stands
     between our working classes and ceaseless toil is one of
     these Mosaic institutions. Nothing in political economy is
     better settled than that under conditions which now prevail
     the working classes would get no more for seven days‟ labour
     than they get for six.xxxv

     George developed in his Progress an Poverty the implications
of this common ownership of land and his proposal for a Single
Tax. Over and over he is critical of the Malthusian and Social
Darwinist thinking of his time that tended to blame poverty on
the morals of the poor or some preordained status by God or
Nature. In his Ode to Liberty he repeats his dept to the Old

     Liberty came to a race of slaves crouching under Egyptians
     whips, and led them forth from the House of Bondage. She
     hardened them in the desert and made if them a race of
     conquers. The free spirit of the Mosaic Law took their
     thinkers up the heights where they beheld the unity of God,
     and inspired their poets with stains that yet phase the
     highest exaltations of thought.xxxvi

     Also he assumed that if the conditions for greed were
eliminated that natural state of humanity would take over and
people would live in community:

     They are greedy of food when they are not assured that there
     will be a fair and equitable distribution, which give each
     enough. But when these conditions are assured, they cease to
     be greedy of food.xxxvii

The Compassionate Face in the Sixties:

     From the standpoint of conservative theorists, the sixties
are defined as the worst disaster in American History. All of the
major problems of our society are viewed as being caused by the
permissive and unchristian policies advocated particularly by the
Feminist Movement and the War on Poverty. Interestingly, the
Black and other Ethnic Civil Rights Movements are usually not
mentioned, so as to not appear to be racist. However, writers
such as Charles Murray and Francis Fukayama use biological models

such as social darwinism. Murray implies that the poor are
genetically dumber as well as being immoral while Fukayama see
feminism as advocating a form of marriage that does not fit the
ideal pattern suggested by evolutionary psychology. Conservatives
such as Gertrude Himmelfarb and Marvin Olasky put more emphasis
on the breakdown in religious values. Himmelfarb in her two
books, The De-moralization of Society and One Nation, Two
Cultures,xxxviii reverses the critique of the Puritan Ethic
developed by Max Weber in to a praise of these same values in
that this ethic supports the moral superiority of Capitalism. She
calls this ethic Victorian Virtues and sees them as dominant in
England and the U.S. during the Victorian period. Her thesis is
that the combination of Leftist intellectuals and the rise of
under class values among the poor has led to all of the social
problems of today:

     In a powerfully argued book, Myron Magnet has analyzed
     the dual revolution that has led to the strange
     alliance between what he calls the “Haves” and the
     “Have-Nots.” The first was a social revolution intended
     to liberate the poor from the political, economic, and
     racial oppression that kept them in bondage. The second
     was a cultural revolution liberating them (as the Haves
     themselves were being liberated) from the moral
     restraints of bourgeois values. The first created the
     welfare programs of the Great Society, which provided
     counterincentives to leaving poverty. And the second
     disparaged the behavior and attitudes that
     traditionally made for economic improvement--”deferral
     of gratification, sobriety, thrift, dogged industry,
     and so on through the whole catalogue of antique-
     sounding bourgeois virtues.” Together these revolutions
     had the unintended effect of miring the poor in their
     poverty--a poverty even more demoralizing and self-
     perpetuating than the old poverty.xxxix

     Similarly, Marvin Olasky makes similar arguments
particularly in his first book, The Tragedy of American
Compassion.xl He spends a major portion of this book attacking
the Welfare Rights movement and the scholars such as Richard
Cloward and Frances Fox Piven who supported this movement. The
“key contribution of the War on Poverty was the deliberate
attempt to uncouple welfare from shame by changing attitudes of
both welfare recipients and the better-off.” The Welfare Rights
movement wanted to establish welfare as a right or entitlement
and this would be bad for the poor according to Olasky. As a
“born again” Protestant, Olasky saw the solution to poverty as
being compassionate conservatism where service for the poor
should be in the hands of church groups who could uphold high

moral standards and even convert the poor. As a professor of
Journalism at the University of Texas, he was very influential on
George Bush Jr. while he was governor and this has become the
basis of the present administrations faith based initiatives and
marriage enhancement as his contribution to welfare reform.

     For me this criticism reflects the Punitive Face of
religion; therefore, I would argue that the sixties was one of
the periods in American history when the Compassionate Face of
religion was most evident. Most of the major social movements--
including the War on Poverty with its advocacy of a guaranteed
income--during this time period were influenced by some religious
tradition. James Farrell‟s thesis in his book, The Spirit of the
Sixties,xli was that these social movements shared a common
framework of Personalism which invite Americans to ask the
question, “what are people for?” and then “insist that our
institutions operate as if all people mattered.” Such personalism
implies a sense of community and solidarity with “others” that is
not assumed in many forms of American “individualism.” Farrell
identifies such personalism in a variety of religious and secular
American traditions such as the Catholic Workers Movement,
Protestant Social Gospel, the pacifist Fellowship of
Reconciliation, Communal Anarchism, The New Left and
Environmentalism. The term Personalism he primarily took from the
social theology of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement,
Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin and the Methodist theologian, Edgar
Brightman, who was one of the influences on Martin Luther King

     Another tradition, which formulates a form of personalism
and was very influential on many poverty workers, was the
Settlement House Movement. One of the few African American
Sociologist, Anna Julia Cooper, defined the Social Settlement
using the vocabulary of the Gospels.

     The Social Settlement idea is as old as the fact “The Word
     made flesh and dwelt among us.” It is the heart of
     sympathy, the hand of brotherly grip, the brain of
     understanding insight, of efficient and masterful good will
     indwelling in the mist of down-and-out humanity--It is set
     on fire with the conviction that all men are created with a
     divine right to a chance, and sets about hammering down some
     of the handicaps which hamper whole sections of the
     community through the inequalities of environment, or the
     greed of the great.xlii

     Jane Addams, at Hull House, was surrounded by women such as
Florence Kelley and Charlotte Perkins Gilman and men such as
George H. Mead and John Dewey. The African American Sociologist,

W.E.B. Du Bois was related to a settlement house in Philadelphia
and like Anna Julia Cooper was very explicit about the importance
of a religious perspective. Each chapter in his classic, The
Souls of Black Folk, has as a heading musical notes that are
taken from Negro spirituals that are paired with European verse--
by Browning, Byron, Swinburne, Symons, Tennyson. Du Bois‟s
biographer, David Levering Lewis, says:

     Du Bois meant the cultural symbolism of these double
     epigraphs to be profoundly subversive of the cultural
     hierarchy of his time. Three years into another century of
     seemingly unassailable European supremacy, Souls countered
     with the voices heard by him for the first time in the
     Tennessee backcountry. Until most readers appreciated the
     message of the songs sung in bondage by black people, Du
     Bois was saying, the words written in freedom by white
     people would remain hollow and counterfeit.xliii

     All of these persons and others were involved with Social
Settlements in extending the obligations of compassion and
charity into a concept of a Charitable or Welfare State. They
pushed for various forms of public social welfare and also for
the regulation of the growing power of large corporations. These
heritages were particularly important for the sixties War on

     One of the major religious leaders of the sixties was Martin
Luther King Jr. In addition to being influenced by of the
personalistic theology of Edgar Brightman he was influenced by
the neo-orthodox theology of Reinhold Niebuhr and the eastern
thought of the Hindu, Mohandras K. Gandhi. All three were
committed to the primacy of the Compassionate Face of religion
and to non-violent social action and felt that the situation of
Blacks in the South might be a place where a non-violent form of
social action might be successful. In the last year of his life,
King was planning a major march on Washington, the Campaign for
the Poor, where the proposal for a guaranteed income would be
made. He was assassinated before that march came about but his
support for a guaranteed income was expressed in his last book,
Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? He points out that
in the sixties economy none of the programs that take a partial
view can solve the problems of poverty because they are not
comprehensive enough. The program must be a progressive one:

     First, it most be pegged to the median income of society,
     not the lowest levels of income. To guarantee an income at
     the floor would simply perpetuate welfare standards and
     freeze into society poverty conditions. Second, the
     guaranteed income must be dynamic; it must automatically

     increase as the total social income grows. Were it permitted
     to remain static under growth conditions, the recipients
     would suffer a relative decline. If periodic reviews
     disclose that the whole national income has risen, the
     guaranteed income would have to be adjusted upward by the
     same percentage.xliv

     An influential book among Protestant groups in the sixties
was one by Philip Wogaman called, Guaranteed Annual Income: The
Moral Issues. One of the chapters in this book is called, “A
Christian Response to the „Protestant Ethic.‟” In this chapter he
argues against the type of ethic described by Weber among many
early American Protestants. He says:

     In this perspective (the basic Christian attitude), the
     “Protestant Ethic” (which as we have received it may be a
     distortion of both ethics and of Protestantism) represents a
     half-truth. The true half is the importance of work in human
     fulfillment. The false half is the subordination of man to
     work and, worse yet, the attempt to establish whether or not
     people are deserving of what God has already given
     them...Man was not made for material ends; nor can we limit
     human creativity to what will bring cash in the

     At the end of the book, he gives three supporting positional
papers on guaranteed income passed by the National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the U. S. A.(1968), The United Methodist
Church(1968), and a report of a special committee in the United
Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. (1967). The Methodist
statement and the National Council of Churches were very similar
and the Methodist recommends a guaranteed income that carries out
the following principles:

     1) Available to all as a matter of right;
     2) Adequate to maintain health and human decency;
     3) Administered so as to maximize coverage and adjust
        benefits to changes in the cost of living;
     4) Developed in a manner which will respect the freedom of
        persons to manage their own lives, increase their power
        to choose their own careers, and enable them to
        participate in meeting personal and community needs;
     5) Designed to afford incentive to productive activity;
     6) Designed in such a way that existing socially desirable
        programs and values are conserved and enhanced.xlvi

     From most of my personal experience, many of the War on
Poverty programs were related to some church related agency.
Typical of many of these services were those developed by Wesley

Community Centers in San Antonio, Texas. This agency was
sponsored by the Methodist Church and stood at the crossroads of
the War on Poverty, the Settlement House Movement and Gang Work.
Wesley Centers was a traditional church related settlement house
that developed a gang work project funded by the National
Institute of Mental Health as a part of that federal agency‟s
pre-poverty program development. When the War on Poverty was
funded, this agency had VISTA workers and other poverty funds to
develop different types of neighborhood programs. In the Outreach
and Organizing model developed by the Wesley Centers through its
gang work experience, each neighborhood worker spent about fifty
percent of their time in each of the two activities of Outreach
and Organizing. The overall purpose of this type of service was
to increase the power of the poor in their negotiations with the
dominant institutions of the larger society. Outreach efforts
were directed toward those families and individuals who were at
the bottom of the low-income neighborhood‟s internal
stratification system. Such residents were usually defined by
other neighborhood persons as lower in status and also were
labeled by social agencies as “multi-problem” and “hard to
reach.” Such Outreach requires that the worker move beyond the
individual clients or family to mediating and advocacy with
employees, political, social agencies, schools or any other
institutions that might be involved with the particular problem
or had resources that might help toward a solution. The
Organizing efforts involved beginning with groups of residents
around whatever issues they saw as relevant. Again Organizing,
like Outreach, involved interacting with the larger community
institutional structures. Collective political action, both by
and in behalf of residents, was sometimes required. Thus the
“private troubles” of even the lowest of the neighborhood
residents were potentially being translated into “public issues.”
This model of social praxis that combines both Outreach as
service practice and Organizing around issues or self-help
prevents the practice of “double closure”, where one group is
helped at the expense of a lower status group. Priority, in this
model, is placed on the needs and issues of the families at the
bottom of the total stratification structure. The following
statement, used by Wesley Centers in training their workers,
shows the value framework that defined the basic code of
responsibility expected of the workers:

  1. Service is not at a distance--it means personal
     involvement with people.
  2. No person or problem is beyond our concern or attention.
     In fact, we are obligated to search out the “outcasts.”
  3. Our motivation for service cannot be the possibility of
     success or any other condition that might be associated
     with the receiver of the service. We can never really
     give up on a person.

   4. Our own interests or personal feelings are not of any
      importance as we serve. We may not personally like the
   5. We must individually assume that we are responsible when
      others do no live up to their responsibility, and thus try
      our best to make a difference.xlvii

     As indicated earlier, the Wesley Centers through its
involvement in Welfare Rights also was involved the political
action in behalf of a guaranteed income. The position of the
Methodist Church outlined above was used with the board of
directors for study and to engage them in advocating in behalf of
this policy.

Miscellaneous Religious Positions on GAIN:

     One of the Christian groups that continued to advocate a
guaranteed income after the War Against the Poor began was the
statement on the economy made by the United States Catholic
Bishops in 1986 called, Economic Justice For All: Catholic Social
Teaching and the U.S. Economy. In this pastoral letter, they

     The search for a more humane and effective way to deal with
     poverty should not be limited to short-term reform measures.
     The agenda for public debate should all include serious
     discussions of more fundamental alternatives to the existing
     welfare system. We urge that proposals for a family
     allowance or a children‟s allowance be carefully examined as
     a possible vehicle for ensuring a floor of income support
     for all children and their families. Special attention is
     needed to develop new efforts that are targeted on long-term
     poverty. Which has proven to be least responsive to
     traditional social welfare programs. The “negative income
     tax” is another policy proposal that deserves continued
     discussions. These and other proposals should be a part of a
     creative and ongoing effort to fashion a system of income
     support for the poor that protects their basic dignity and
     provides the necessary assistance in a just and effective

     This statement is a part of comprehensive discussions and
proposals for the entire economy. The specific policy suggestions
are prefaced by the theological base for this letter. They sum up
the Old Testament:

     Central to the biblical presentation of justice is that the
     justice of a community is measured by its treatment of the
     powerless in society, most often described as the widow, the

     orphan, the poor and stranger (non-Israelite) in the

     The summary of the New Testament is base on the Parable of
the Last Judgment:

     Neither the blessed nor the cursed are astounded that they
     are judged by the Son of Man, nor that the judgment is
     rendered according to the works of charity. The shock comes
     when they find that in neglecting the poor, the outcast and
     the oppressed, they are rejecting Jesus himself. Jesus who
     came as “Emmanuel” or “God with us” and who promises to be
     with his people until the end of the age is hidden in those
     most in need; to reject them is to reject God made manifest
     in history.l

     I was teaching Sociology in a Jesuit University at this time
and was a part of an inter-departmental sponsorship of a
symposium discussing this pastoral letter. A group of lay
Catholic businessmen came to the meeting protesting the right of
the Bishops to “interfere” in economic matters. Their role was
defined as only “spiritual.”

     A Protestant Sociologist who also continues to advocate a
guaranteed income is Robert Bellah. Bellah began as a Marxist and
during the McCarthy period and in 1955 went to Canada. Marx still
continues to inspire his critiques. When he came back to States,
he joined the Harvard faculty where he was influenced by the
sociologist, Talcott Parson, and the theologian, Paul Tillich. He
did a major study of Japanese religion and developed the concept
of civil religion, which argues for the sacred roots of secular
institutions in society. His conceptualization of this idea was
probably influenced by his involvement in the major movements of
the sixties including civil rights and condemnation of the
Vietnam War. His concept of the best of the American Civil
Religion was similar to James Farrell concept of Personalism as
the basis of the radical tradition that grounded the social
movements of the Sixties. His move away from the concept of civil
society in his later writing was expressed by him:

     What was particularly distressing to me was the almost
     inveterable tendency in some quarters to identify what I
     called civil religion with the idolatrous worship of the
     state. ---It was not that I failed to recognize the
     existence of such idolatrous belief, though historically it
     was more commonly enunciated by preachers than by
     politicians, but that I believed it to be a perversion of
     the central and normative

     In the eighties and nineties, Bellah collaborated with a
team of scholars to write two political books--Bellah‟s label.
The other collaborators were all social scientist and also active
members of various religious traditions--three were raised
Catholic and one Jewish. The other scholars were Richard Madsen,
William M. Sullivan, Ann Swider and Steven M. Tipton. The two
books are, Habits of the Hearts and The Good Society and in these
books, based upon depth interviews with a wide variety of
Americans, they make a wide range of critiques and
recommendations for American Society. Typical would be there
recommendation of the biblical and republican tradition:

     The litmus test that both the biblical and republican
     tradition gives us for assaying the health of a society is
     how it deals with the problem of wealth and poverty. The
     Hebrew prophets took their stand by the ‘anawin, the poor
     and oppressed, and condemned the rich and powerful who
     exploit them. The New Testament shows a Jesus who lived
     among the ‘anawin of his day and who recognized the
     difficulty the rich would have in responding to his call.
     Both testaments make it clear that societies sharply divided
     between rich and poor are not in accord with the will of
     God. Classic republican theory from Aristotle to the
     American founders rested on the assumptions that free
     institutions could survive in a society only if there were a
     rough equality of conditions.lii

     In the second book, they recommend a guaranteed minimum
income or a social wage as basic to greater economic democracy.
They also recommend community organizing efforts in low-income
areas to help build a sense of participation in both the economy
and the political community.liii

     A modern Methodist theologian that supports a guaranteed
income in his writings is John B. Cobb, Jr. He is among a group
of theologians who draw from the Process Philosophy of Alfred
Whitehead. Cobb has particularly been involved in a Buddhist-
Jewish-Christian conversation. He also has joined with economists
such as Herman E. Daly in developing economic thought that is
very critical of the present neoliberal perspective in relation
to the global economy.

     Buddhist and Christians cannot agree that wealth is the
     supreme goal of human life. Buddhist know that attachment to
     worldly goods, and certainly to their increase, blocks the
     path of spiritual advance. A culture focused on this end is
     deeply sick. Christians believe the first task of government
     is justice, and they see the pursuit of wealth profoundly
     interferes with the achievement of justice. We know also

     that Jesus was very explicit in asserting that we cannot
     serve both God and wealth...Both Buddhists and Christians
     want the basic needs of all to be met....we deeply oppose
     placing the quest for wealth first...Justice, peace, and the
     basic needs of all are much higher priorities than simply
     increasing overall wealth.liv

     In Cobb‟s joint writing with Herman E. Daly, they develop
implications for supporting more humane development policies that
build from the grass root up. In their book, For The Common Good,
they recommend a version of the negative income tax that is
sufficient to meet human In another paper, Herman Daly
proposes a Steady-State Economy that is built on the Old
Testament advocacy of Sabbath and the Jubilee Year, mentioned
earlier. Along with a negative income tax to set a minimum, Daly
suggests a maximum income of ten times the minimum. He argues
that the jubilee year implied both a minimum and a maximum.

     Certainly at a minimum there were gleaming, and alms, and
     the rights of slaves and of widows, all of which can be
     interpreted as providing a floor below which no one was
     allowed to fall. Was there a corresponding ceiling on
     personal wealth? I submit that there was, because even the
     king, the person most likely to have unlimited rights of
     accumulation, was expressly denied such a right. Neither
     horses, wives, nor gold and silver must increase excessively
     by the king (Deut. 17:16ff.).lvi

     In 1992 he set the guaranteed income at $8,000 and uses a
negative income tax formula and work incentive of 50% making
$15,000 a break-even point at which no tax is paid, either
positive or negative. Thus if a person earns $3,000 than the
negative income tax subsidy would be ($15,000-3,000) x 1/2
=$6,000, making total income of $9,000. Obviously in principle
this is flexible. With $8,000 as a minimum the maximum is
therefore $80,000 with income above this taxed at 100%. Daly adds
the stipulation of making this a steady state economy with
controls on growth because of the environmental concerns. He
argues that the limit-to-growth debate disappeared with the
election of Ronald Reagan when “people realized that limits to
growth imply limits to inequality (if poverty is to be reduced)
and, specifically, a maximum limit. Both Daly and Cobb were
influenced by earlier development ideas of the Hindu, Gandhi, and
the formulations of the Catholic theorist, Schumacher, who
labeled his theories as “Buddhist Economics.”lvii

     Another theologian who supports a guaranteed income is the
feminist theologian, Rosemary Radford Reuther. Like many feminist

theologians, she takes very seriously the early images of the
feminine as sacred such as the Mother Goddess images:

     We can speak of the root human image of the divine as the
     Primal Matrix, the great womb within which all things, Gods
     and humans, sky and earth, human and nonhuman beings, are
     generated. Here the divine is not abstracted into some other
     world beyond this earth but is the encompassing source of
     new life that surrounds the present world and assures it
     continuance. This is expressed in the ancient myth of the
     World Egg out of which all things arise.lviii

     Reuther does not accept the Mother Goddess image
uncritically like some feminist thinkers but recognizes that some
of the use of this image in ancient civilizations were a way to
legitimate aristocratic power. She affirms it ability to not
separate the male/feminine in the concepts of the Divine, but
other qualities should be criticized:

     By patriarchy we mean not only the subordination of females
     to males, but the whole structure of Father-ruled society:
     aristocracy over serfs, masters over slaves, kings over
     subjects, racial overlords over colonized people. Religions
     that reinforce hierarchical stratification use the Divine as
     the apex of this system of privilege and control. The
     religions of the ancient Near East link the Gods and
     Goddesses with the kings and queens, the priests and
     priestesses, the warrior and temple aristocracy of a
     stratified society. The Gods and Goddesses mirror this
     ruling class and form its heavenly counterpart. The
     divinities also show mercy and favor to the distressed, but
     in the manner of noblesse oblige.lix

     Reuther acknowledges the work of feminist biblical scholars
who have recovered the various feminine images in the Jewish and
Christian traditions such as the influence of the Isis Goddess on
the image of the Wisdom of God as Sophia and the way the feminine
image is used in referring to the Compassion of God. The root
word for the ideas of compassion and mercy in Hebrew is rechem,
or womb. Thus a compassionate God has maternal or womblike

     If God/ess is not the creator and validator of the existing
     hierarchical social order, but rather the one who liberates
     us from it, who opens up a new community of equals, then
     language about God/ess drawn from kingship and hierarchical
     power must lose its privileged place. Images of God/ess must
     include female roles and experience. Images of God/ess must
     draw from the activities of peasants and working people.
     People at the bottom of society. Most of all, images of

     God/ess must be transformative, pointing us back to our
     authentic potential and forward to new redeemed

     Ruether‟s advocacy of a guaranteed income comes in her
overall history of the family in western culture and history. It
is one of the best social science and historical picture of
former and modern families. In her proposals for policies for the
modern family the suggestions are similar to the Universal
Caretaker model presented earlier. She proposes a form of the
negative income tax that is basically the same as Fred Block. The
floor is set at the poverty level and “a family with no income
would receive at least that much aid. For each dollar earned it
would receive two back, up to double the poverty line.”(112) This
proposal is set within other policies to create greater economic
democracy and an ecologically sound society.

     Ultimately--no comprehensive plan for alleviating poverty
     can have a chance of political success if it does not
     address the problem of the superrich, those owners of
     corporations who largely dominate the American political
     system, determine its policies, and define the hegemonic
     culture by control of the mainstream media. The power of the
     rich to dictate who is elected to government needs to be
     curbed by an insurgent democratic movement, one that uses
     the electoral might of the majority to strip the rich of the
     power to set policies that favor them rather the majority.lxi


     Using Max Weber, I have argued that religion can have two
different faces--a punitive one and a compassionate one. Further,
the compassionate face normatively implies a social policy of an
unconditional guaranteed income. This has been demonstrated by a
variety of examples in the past and present. There are some
common elements in these examples of the compassionate face. The
first common aspect is a social realism that recognizes the
prevalence of domination and exploitation in the existing social
structures. Also, such realism views the attempts to define merit
or differentiation of deserving from undeserving as an
ideological cover for privilege. The second feature is the idea
that all natural and cultural resources belong to God and thus
should be used to benefit all humans or children of God. Such
resources not only include land but also includes those cultural
capital created by social relations and even includes those
inherited talents that an individual may possess by chance or
luck. A third common element is the view that there is a
potential for an inclusive community based on compassion that
transcends all natural and particularistc claims. The norms of

the transcendent community imply an infinite responsibility that
cannot perfectly be met by humans. A fourth common element is the
emphasis on the primary goal of action in this world is the
meeting of materialistic human need--i.e. food for the hungry,
drink for the thirsty, clothing for the naked, shelter for the
homeless, healing for the sick and reconciliation for those in
prison. Finally there is a further aspect of the above social
realism that implies that all religious institutions and
individuals combine both compassionate and punitive forms. It is
often impossible to separate the two as they are found in formal
organizations and even internalized in the same individual.

     As an example of how the two faces might operate within the
same individual, I will point to the Governor of Alabama, Bob
Riley,lxii and his unsuccessful plan in 2003 to raise taxes by
$1.2 billion a year and primarily do this to help the poor. These
new taxes would be paid primarily by the wealthiest through taxes
on property, businesses, cars, utilities, deeds and cigarettes.
He would also raise the threshold at which residents have to pay
income taxes, from the current $4,600 annually to $20,000. Bob
Riley is a conservative Republican, a true disciple of Ronald
Reagan, and had served in the Congress. At one time he had
complained that Newt Gingrich was leaning too far left. Riley was
influenced by an article in the Alabama Law Review by Susan Pace
Hamill, an University of Alabama tax law professor who took a
sabbatical to earn a Master of Theological Studies degree. In her
article, “An Argument for Tax Reform Based on Judeo-Christian
Ethics,” she saw the reform of the Alabama tax system was
necessary to assure that children from low income families would
have the same opportunity as those from more affluent families.
In Alabama, people with incomes below $13,000 pay 10.9 percent of
their income in taxes, while those who make more than $229,000
pay only 4 percent. Bob Riley said, “According to our Christian
ethic, we are supposed to love God, love each other, and help
take care of the poor, and this is a step in the right
direction.” It is interesting that Riley‟s plan had support from
some Alabama‟s churches--such as Methodists, Presbyterians,
Southern Baptist, Episcopalians, Catholic and some Jewish
leaders. However, the opposition included Christian Right--headed
by the Christian Coalition--along with state Republican leaders
and business organizations--such as large landowners and timber
companies. He did have some support from banks and insurance and
telecommunications interests. Riley‟s proposal was defeated.

     The following quote from a Nineties gang worker, Father Greg
Boyle shows that how the compassionate face implies specific
social policies and a grounding for the political process to
bring about these policies.

     Compassion is more than just a quality of God and more than
     an individual virtue, it is a social paradigm. It‟s how the
     system is supposed to work. If we think gang members are
     monsters, then it will be abundantly clear what we should
     do--get tougher because they are monsters. If you think
     they are human beings, --then you open yourself up to a
     whole slew of complex solutions to really complex

    Fred Block, “The Right‟s Moral Trouble,” The Nation, (Sept. 30,
2003),20-22, p.20
     George Lakoff, “Framing the Dems,” The American Prospect, Vol.
32, Sept., 2003, pp. 32-35
      Block, op.cit., p. 22
     Max Weber, “Religious rejections of the World: the Meaning of
Their Rational Construction,” in From Max Weber: Essays in
Sociology edited by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, New York:
Oxford University Press, 1972. P.330
     Ibid, p.330
     Ibid. p.332-333
      Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism,
Translated by Stephen Kalberg, Los Angeles, California: Roxbury
Publishing Company, 2002
      Weber, op. cit., pp. 336-337
     Jurgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action: Volume I,
Reason and Rationalization, Boston: Beacon Press, 1987. P. 232
     Eric Hobsbaum, Uncommon People: Resistance, Rebellion and Jazz,
New York: The New Press, 1998. P. 48
    Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of The Leisure Class: An Economic
Study of Institutions, New York: The Modern Library. P. 333
      Veblen, “Christian Morals and the Competitive System,” pp.
200-218 in Essays in Our Changing Order, edited by Leon
Ardzroonic, New York: The Viking Press, 1954. P. 205
      Ibid. p. 218
      Gerth and Mills, op. cit.,
      Marvin Olasky, Renewing American Compassion, New York: The Free
Press, 1966
       James C. Scott, “Protest and Profanation: Agrarian Revolt and
the Little Tradition,” Theory and Society, 4(1977): 225-226
       F. Charles Fenshan, “Widow, Orphan, and the Poor in Ancient
Near Eastern Legal and Wisdom Literature” in Studies in Ancient
Israelite Wisdom edited by James L. Crenshaw, New York: Ktav
Publishing House, 1976, 161-171
       D. C. Ahir, Asoka The Great, Delhi: B. R. Publishing
Corporation, 1995

      Robert A. F. Thurman, “The Edicts of Asoka” in The Path of
Compassion: Writings of Socially Engaged Buddhism, edited by Fred
Eppsteiner, Berkeley, California: Parallex Press, 1988.
      Ibid, pp. 116-117
      Bible, Deuteronomy 15: 1-3, 5
       Ibid, Leviticus 25: 23-28
       Marcus J. Borg, Meeting Jesus for the First Time: The
Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith, New York:
Harper Collins Publishers, 1994. Pp. 80-81
       Bible, Matthew 20: 1-15
       Buford E. Farris, Jr., “Recovery of a Tradition,” New World
Outlook, (March-April, 1989) pp. 22-25
       Alice Tobriner, A Sixteenth-century Urban Report. Part I:
Introduction and Commentary. Part II: Translation of On
Assistance to the Poor (by Juan Luis Vives), Chicago: School of
Social Service Administration, 1971. P. 19
        Ibid, p. 37
        Thomas A. Horne, Property Rights and Poverty: Political
Arguments in Britain, 1605-1834, Chapel Hill: The University of
North Carolina Press, 1990.
       Ibid, p.201
       John Keane, Tom Paine: A Political Life, New York: Little
Brown and Company, 1995
       Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
        Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, pp 605-623 in Complete
Writings of Thomas Paine edited by Philip S. Foner. P. 609
        Ibid, pp. 612-613
        Henry George, “Moses,” lecture given to Young Man‟s Hebrew
Association in San Francisco
        Henry George, Progress and Poverty, New York: Robert
Schalkenbach Foundation, 1981. P. 547
         Ibid, p. 552
         Gertrude Himmelfarb, The De-Moralization of Society, New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995 and One Nation, Two Cultures. Mew
York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1999
        One Nation, Two Cultures, p. 244
      Marvin Olasky, The Tragedy of American Compassion, Washington,
D.C.: Regenery Gateway, 1992
      James J. Farrell, The Spirit of the Sixties, New York:
Routledge, 1997
       Anna Julia Cooper, “The Social Settlement: What It Is, and
What It Does (1913) in A Voice From the South, pp. 216-217
       David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race,
1868-1919, New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1993. P. 278

       Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or
Community?, New York: Harper & Row, 1968
       Philip Wogaman, Guaranteed Annual Income: The Moral Issues,
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1968
       Ibid, pp. 144-145
        See various articles on the Wesley Community Centers such as
Buford Farris and Betty Farris, “The „Moonbloom Syndrome‟ and
Poverty Warriors,” presented at Mid-American American Studies
Association meeting in 2001
         A pastoral letter of the United States Catholic Bishops,
Economic Justice For All: Catholic Teaching and the U.S. Economy.
P. 29
       Ibid, p. 8
     Ibid, p. 9
     Robert N. Bellah, “Finding the Church: Post-Traditional
Discipleship.” Article online ( taken from
Christian Century. P. 4
      Robert N. Bellah, Habits of the Heart, Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1985. P. 285
       Robert N. Bellah, The Good Society, New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1991. P. 104
      John B. Cobb, Jr., “A Buddhist-Christian Critique of Neo-
Liberal Economics,” lecture delivered at the Eastern Buddhist
conference at Otani University in Kyoto, May 18,2002 at the
website of religion-online.
      Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb, Jr. (With contributions by
Clifford W. Cobb) For The Common Good: Redirecting the Economy
toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future,
Boston: Beacon Press, 1989
      Herman E. Daly, “A Biblical Economic Principle and the Steady-
State Economy,” Epiphany Journal, Winter, 1992, 6-18
       E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful,
        Rosemary Radford Reuther, Sexism and God-Talk: towards a
feminist Theology, Boston: Beacon Press, 1983. p. 48
      Ibid, p. 61
      Ibid, p. 69
      Rosemary Radford Reuther, Christianity and the Modern Family:
Ruling Ideologies and Diverse Realities, Boston: Beacon Press,
2000. P. 223
       See report in Sojourners(September-October, 2003) by Jim
Wallas, pp. 7-8.
        report of speech at Saint Louis University by Greg Boyle, S.J.
on Feb. 27 in University News

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